Garden of the month - Boundes End, Bidborough

PUBLISHED: 10:57 19 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:33 20 February 2013

Garden of the month - Boundes End, Bidborough

Garden of the month - Boundes End, Bidborough

Boundes End is one of three gardens that open together in Bidborough this month, but owners Carol and Mike Marks certainly had their work cut out to get it looking how it does today

Garden of the month - Boundes End, Bidborough

Boundes End is one of three gardens that open together in Bidborough this month, but owners Carol and Mike Marks certainly had their work cut out to get it looking how it does today

A relatively new garden, Boundes End offers lots of ideas to inspire, from structural elements to productive gardening. When Carol and Mike Marks arrived in 2001, their attention was at first directed to the neglected house that had stood empty for three years and it wasnt until after renovations and the building work of two extensions were completed in 2005 that they could start on the garden.

The front garden was full of laurels that had to be cleared, to the rear there were two unsafe oaks and an ash that needed attention from tree surgeons. Next we had to find the boundaries as the garden was totally overgrown with nettles, brambles and other weeds, says Carol.

Creating some definition and structure as a framework for planting was important. A native hedge of hawthorn, beech and blackthorn was planted for security and to encourage wildlife, some specimen trees were added, circular steps built from the patio down to the lawn and the plot was divided by adding pergolas, paths and borders.

The plot is an unusual shape, consisting of two triangular areas, which proved to be something of a design challenge, explains Carol. We eventually settled on a formal design for the area immediately to the rear of the house, the top garden, using straight lines, a pergola across the garden and a zig-zag path to create the illusion of width. We chose to emphasise the triangular shape of the area rather than disguise it. The bottom triangle, the lower garden, is surrounded by trees so we have retained a woodland theme with a feeling of informality and calm derived also by the curved shapes of borders and island beds there

Consideration in the evolution of the garden was also given to practical and family needs from a slope to make it easier to take the lawn mower from the front to the back garden, to ensuring a good-sized flat lawn for the grandchildren to play on. And having colour and interest year round as well as including edibles were priorities. Working with the slightly acid soils and varying degrees of shelter from south-westerly winds had further impact on the design and planting.

Stepping out from the house onto the wide, paved terrace, edged in colourful containers, the vista of the top garden is laid out before you with densely planted borders, vines scrambling over the pergola and paths dissecting the lawn and leading the eye on to the lower section.

Through bespoke gates the visitor is then led into the dappled light of the woodland area. Here there is a mini orchard of apples, pears, plums and a damson tree as well as containers of vegetables on a small patio beside an attractive garden shed, irrigated from water butts and providing plenty of produce in a manageable way.

Look out for the eclectic display of old tools, most of which belonged to Carols father and grandfather who were also keen gardeners. It is great to be able to share this little bit of nostalgia and family history with visitors to our garden, Carol adds. Unexpectedly, in a clearing amongst the trees is a Fire Circle, as the Marks are involved with the Scout movement and it is a much-used space for barbecues around the campfire.

Throughout the garden, plants have been selected that thrive in the various microclimates. Drought-tolerant species bask in the sun in a pebble garden by the terrace; exotic cannas, fiery crocosmia and dahlias thrive in an open border; honeysuckle, clematis and roses mingle on the pergola while acers enjoy the soft shade in the woodland.

The colours, shapes and textures of plants provide interest to any garden and with my background in embroidery design, it is not difficult to transfer these skills into the living tapestry which is now our garden, says Carol.

As the garden reaches its maturity, Carol and Mike have more opportunities to sit out in the garden and enjoy the results of all their hard work, justifiably pleased with how much they have achieved in a relatively short period of time.

Working in the garden is very therapeutic being in touch with nature, nurture and growth. It may be hard work sometimes, but it can also be relaxing and gives us time to think while becoming absorbed in the task at hand.

We use the garden for entertaining and love to eat outdoors. As the lower garden is more sheltered it is often warmer and even in winter if theres a bit of sunshine well take a cuppa there to sit and relax, says Carol.

Opening the garden for the first time through the NGS last year, along with two of their neighbours, was enjoyed by all and the trio are repeating the experience this year. Over 500 visitors exceeded their expectations, with people coming from as far away as the Netherlands as well as from Kent, London and the surrounding counties. Being part of a group opening is fun and creates a feeling of friendship. We all encourage each other to get the gardens ready for visitors and commiserate when the plants dont deliver as hoped. We are lucky enough to receive a lot of support from our other neighbours, and the Bidborough village community, which includes helping with the teas a very important part of the day!

We are looking forward to opening again this year and meeting so many lovely people. While it is wonderful to receive so many compliments about our garden, it is such a rewarding way to make money for very worthy charities, such as Brain Tumour UK, adds Carol.

Opening times

Bidborough Gardens

Boundes End, 1 St Lawrence Avenue, 23 Woodland Way, TN4 0XB

Directions: 3 miles north of Tunbridge Wells, between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells west of A26. Take B2176 Bidborough Ridge signed to Penshurst. Take first left into Darnley Drive, then first right into St Lawrence Avene.

Sunday 8 August (11am-5pm) Combined admission 3.50, children free

Boundes End is also open by appointment in July and August for groups up to 20,

Tel: 01892 542233

August in the garden

Plant of the month

Canna, Indian shot plant

exotic-looking perennial

add height and colour to the border at the end of summer

dramatic paddle-shaped purple, copper to green foliage, sometimes stripy veins

showy flowers in bright scarlet to golds


half-hardy to tender

easy to grow

1.5 to 2m height, 60cm spread

sheltered spot, full sun

fertile soil

can be grown in containers

water well through summer

deadhead flowers

in autumn cut off the foliage and lift rhizome

store in dry soil-less compost in frost-free place

in mildest areas leave in ground, protected by winter mulch

divide rhizomes in spring

plant out in late spring/early summer after frosts pass

Ornamental tasks

formal, evergreen hedges and topiary can be pruned now

shorten wisteria side shoots back to five or six leaves from the main framework

if going away, move containers to a shady spot to prevent them drying out too quickly

trim back lavender, taking care not to cut too heavily into the old wood

take cuttings of rosemary, fuchsias, pelargoniums and tender perennials

To taste

pick the last raspberries then cut out the fruited canes and tie in new canes to fruit next year

summer prune espaliered fruit trees

prune back gooseberries and peg down strawberry runners

cut back herbs to encourage second flush

plant out winter veg such as Swiss chard, oriental veg, turnips and spring cabbage

Something extra

You may not be able to top up ponds due to water restrictions. Ensure fountains are turned on regularly to oxygenate what water there is to help gasping fish. Feed fish daily. Clear out weeds and debris. Thin out plants, aim to have no more than half the water covered by floaters, such as waterlily pads, otherwise the water will be starved of oxygen, especially in warm weather

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